How-To: Expired film resources

Shooting expired film can be a bit of a crapshoot, but whether your results are perfect and boring, or totally wild, it can be a lot of fun.

There’s always a little uncertainty with film, of course. Experience and attention to detail can reduce — even greatly — goof-ups, but there’s always a chance your film will be wrecked somewhere in the process. Using expired film ups the chances of an unexpected result exponentially.

A lot of factors can alter the behavior of the film when it’s finally exposed to light, including how the film has been stored, whether it has been exposed to x-rays or nuclear fallout, water damage, the ravages of time on the backing material, and more. Those accustomed to using expired film have likely seen it all.

Time and fogging (i.e. anything that chemically alters some portion of the emulsion as if it had been exposed to light) can reduce the emulsion’s sensitivity, and dyes and filtering layers can break down causing unexpected changes in color rendition. It may not even be possible to develop some films as intended, depending on the chemical process they were designed for. Most frequently, film designed for obsolete color processes has to be developed as black and white.

The final images may exhibit color shifts, ranging from slight to ludicrous, increased grain, incomplete or uneven exposure, and other “defects.” Physically, the film may be brittle or frustratingly curled, or the emulsion might just slide right off. The only way to know what will happen is to give it a shot.

With that in mind, here are a host of useful resources to peruse before you crack open that antique roll of film next March 15.

Articles and Examples

A Guide to Shooting Expired Film — By Daniel J. Schneider for PopPhoto.com, a comprehensive guide to what to expect, how to get good results, and why this stuff is the way it is. (Published to coincide with the first Expired Film Day on March 15, 2016!)

An expired love affair aka why I shoot expired film — By Sina Farhat for EMULSIVE, discussing a host of reasons why Farhat fell in love with expired film and continues to use it. Packed with great expired film example shots.

It’s Witchcraft: Expired Film — By Ray Larose, focusing on long-discontinued Kodak Portra 160NC & 400NC (with a healthy dose of Salem, Mass., and coffee recommendations).

Shooting Expired Film — By Lance King, with good examples of each type of film and common-sense advice.

Week 3, Color mistakes — By Joe Cunningham, with examples of subtle color shifts.

Why Shoot Expired Film? 2013 Update! — By Michael Raso for the Film Photography Project blog, with a great selection of examples of all kinds of effects.

5 tips for shooting with expired film — From I Still Shoot Film, with good examples and advice.

Past EFD Results

Beyond the more technical stuff, here are some blog posts with further examples from past Expired Film Day participants:

{Late Entry} Expired Film Day 2016 — Crazy tungsten-balanced film results from Amanda Raney and Fujichrome 64T.

Expired Film Day 2016 — By Nicholas Middleton, with a lot of Kodak Plus-X.

Expired Film Day — By Kevin Collins, super-grainy Kodak BW400CN and some ancient Eastman Super-XX.

Expired Film Day — By Barbara Tozier, with old Polaroid and older Plus-X.

April – Expired Film Day 2016 — By Guy Phoenix, with Kodak Pro BW400CN and Elite Chrome 400, and some crazy greens.

Expired Film Day ……. — By Tim Dobbs, featuring relaxing sand and sun on warm and creamy Fuji NPS160.

Expired Film Day 2016 results: Kodak Vericolor III VPS — By Daniel J. Schneider, featuring crazily shifted medium format results with C-41 color negative film designed for ASA 160 but exposed at ASA 20.

Expired Film Day 2016 results: 2003 Kodak Plus-X 125 (Agfa) — By Daniel J. Schneider, featuring 35mm black-and-white film shot with a simple Agfa Silette camera, rated at ASA 80 and pushed about one stop.